'How much the competition means to Dublin I don't know' - Connerton's strike sends Gavin's men packing
Longford 1-12 Dublin 0-9
Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30
A result for the history books in Glennon Bros Pearse Park.
This was Longford's first win over Dublin at senior level since 2000, while it was also Dublin's first defeat of any kind since round three of last year's league when they were edged out in Killarney by Kerry on the first day of March.
After that, however, the significance of this result won't go far beyond a welcome shot in the arm for Longford.
That's not to take away from the Midlanders' strong showing. Denis Connerton's men were organised and disciplined and with referee John Hickey willing to let plenty go, they brought the fight to Dublin's door.
And as the manager pointed afterwards, Longford are a different proposition at home.
"We mightn't always be able to get where we want to get, but some days we're very good - and we are very good in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park. We have often said that before, that we are hard beaten here," he said.
They were three points clear at half-time after getting off the mark through the impressive Francis McGee on 47 seconds. It set the tone for the day. The Midlanders would never be headed as Dublin, normally dusted with star quality, struggled.
Responsibility was spread across the Longford team.
In the absence of established stars Brian Kavanagh and Mickey Quinn, Longford still had nine different scorers. A massive free from Robbie Smyth that was close to 55 metres out on the angle sent them in at half-time with a spring in their step.
That lead stretched to four points on the restart through Darren Gallagher but Dublin's best period would follow. Three Dean Rock points in a row and an effort from Ciaran Reddin brought them to within a point after Smyth landed another free.
Dublin had the chance to go level then but crucially Rock dropped a free short and Longford went down the field and snaffled a point.
That score seemed to breathe new life into tired Longford legs and put doubt in Dublin minds. The home side quickly stretched the lead to three points before the game's vital moment.
Denis Connerton called for his son Liam with ten minutes to go and he was hardly on the field when he grabbed the decisive goal. McGee's centre was fielded by Michael Brady on the edge of Stephen Cluxton's area.
He spilled possession but Connerton was there to sweep home and put his side in their first O'Byrne Cup final since 2008.
"He would have been in trouble if he didn't score it," manager Denis smiled afterwards. "He took it well."
"We just can't afford to get carried away," he continued.
"We've an awful lot of hard work to do and today … how much the competition means to Dublin I don't know. They only know that themselves.
"But we worked very hard and things worked out for us today and we got the run of the ball and that was very important for us. Some other days we don't always get that … so (I'm) very happy with the result, very happy with the performance, and for us it's the performance is what it's all about really."
Jim Gavin's Dublin won't be winning a fifth successive competition but he was already looking ahead to a clear fortnight in the build-up to their league opener against Kerry in Croke Park.
"I commend the efforts of the Dublin players, they tried their hardest to get back into the game," said Gavin, who used 31 players in their four O'Byrne Cup games.
"They are quite fatigued after the game but Longford played well throughout the whole expanse of the game and full credit to them. For January they covered the ground very well, they looked fit, they looked very mobile and their skill-set is very good."
"(We've) two weeks and two clear weeks uninterrupted to prepare for the opening round of the league and that worth its weight (in gold) for us and we will use that well," said Gavin, who also confirmed that Cluxton will continue as captain for the year.
Dublin look towards Kerry in Croke Park while Longford head for Navan to face Meath in the O'Byrne Cup final next weekend but with the league looming a week later, Connerton suggested his team will have to have one eye on that.
"We have to have (an eye on the league)," he said. "And we haven't got those resources to split. We are just praying we can come through those games without any major injuries because we haven't really got that big squad that other teams would have the luxury of.
"Any victory for us is terrific. We are really starved of success. We last won this in the year 2000, 16 years ago. It's hard going, the Leinster Championship - Dublin are in it, the All-Ireland series - we aren't going to win it. It's just difficult for us.
"But there's great satisfaction with the performance of the lads today. We looked for effort, we looked for seriously hard work, because we knew we had to work hard. And we got that today from them."
SCORERS - Longford: F McGee (1f), R Smyth (3f) 0-3 each, L Connerton 1-0, P McKeon, B McKeon (1f), M Hughes, D Gallagher, B Farrell, J McGivney 0-1. Dublin: D Rock 0-3 (2f), C Reddin 0-2, P Andrews, C Costello, D Daly, T Brady 0-1 each.
Longford - P Collum; F Battrim, B Gilleran, C P Smyth; A Dalton, D Brady, D Masterson; M Brady, B Farrell; D Gallagher, J McGivney, B McKeon; M Hughes, F McGee, D Brady. Subs: P McKeon for Hughes (46), L Connerton for R Smyth (60), C Shields for P McKeon (65 BC), P McGee for F McGee (70).
Dublin - S Cluxton; J Cooper, J Curley, P McMahon; J McCarthy, J Small, D Daly; C Reddin, D Bastick; T Brady, D Rock, S Carthy (St Vincent's); C Costello, P Andrews, C O'Callaghan. Subs: N Scully for Bastick (41), P Ryan for O'Callaghan (50), D McElligott for Farrell (53), C Mulally for Carthy (60), M Deegan for Andrews (65).
Ref - J Hickey (Carlow)